Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, (July 27, 2008) Mt. 13: 44-52
The point of the Gospel chosen to be read on this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is that the greatest joy of all in this life is found in the discovery and acceptance of the way, truth and life of Jesus. And to have this gift in our lives, we must give everything we have.
Many things in life make us happy and joyful. I can remember as a child literally jumping up and down in joy on Christmas morning at home as the family gathered by the tree to open their gifts. And how happy I was on July 14, 1957, when I was ordained a Franciscan Priest at St. Mark’s Church in Rome with my Mom and Dad in attendance. How happy and joy-filled I used to be as I flew or drove home to visit my parents and brother from wherever I happened to be stationed at the time. How happy and joyous I was to discover the way to a sober life after the many years of pain that came from my alcoholism. These and many more things have caused a great deal of happiness and joy in my life. And I am sure you have a list of things in your life that did the same. We have all experienced many happy and joyful moments in our lives and it is a moment of further happiness and joy to recall them.
Our Gospel today, however, tells us, as we said above, that the greatest joy we will have in life will come from discovering the way of Jesus. This is the greatest because it lasts now and will continue to last for all eternity. Christmas Day came to an end at midnight. Now I think of my ordination day once a year. Those visits home are no longer possible as all of my family have gone to the Lord. My sober way of life continues on with God’s help and interestingly enough, it continues because it goes hand in hand with my discovery of Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. The joy that comes from the one leads to the other and therefore both are lasting.
Again, it is this way of the Lord that brings that greatest and lasting happiness we can find in this world. Love, compassion, caring, service, forgiveness, emptying of self, making life all about God and neighbor and not all about me — this is where we find our greatest happiness and joy in life. It took me years and years of selfishness, of doing things my way, of trying to do it all alone, being independent, doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it and many other stupidities before I finally discovered where true happiness and joy are really to be found. And somehow I imagine it has been the same for all of you who have arrived at this same discovery. And now that we have found the way, the Gospel tells us, we have to give our all to keep it. We have to be totally open, accepting and willing, and God will do the rest. Jesus, in you is our strength, our happiness and our joy. Please stay with us always.
Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 28, 2008) Mt. 13:31-35
These two parables found in the Gospel for today on the Kingdom of heaven were part of the Gospel for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time along with the parable of the wheat and the weeds. At that time we spoke only of the parable of the wheat and weeds. The Kingdom of heaven is shown in all these parables as something existing right now with us right in the middle of it. We are the wheat and the weeds that will be separated and judged by God at the harvest at the end of the world.
This Kingdom, we see, is also like a mustard seed and yeast. These parables show that this Kingdom will begin now and reach its completeness in the time to come. The wheat will be gathered into the barn, the Kingdom will continue to grow larger and larger from its small beginning. The smallest and most humble of people will do great things and the leaven of God’s power will make it a powerful force in the world. The call to holiness is not easy but good will triumph over evil. The message of the Kingdom is the message of the Scriptures. The Kingdom of heaven is the place to find ourselves if we desire happiness, peace, and fulfillment.
Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time (July 29, 2008) St. Martha
The rubrics (directions written in red ink) for today’s Memorial of St. Martha make it clear that the Gospel read for today’s Liturgy must be from the Memorial of St. Martha and then it offers us two choices: John 11: 19-27 in which Martha went out to meet Jesus when she heard he was coming after the death of her brother, Lazarus, and Luke 10: 38-42, the story of Martha and her sister, Mary, on the occasion of Jesus coming to their home for lunch.
I always like the latter Gospel from St. Luke because it explains to us how to observe the first part of the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” It tells us how we are to love God in this way by the actions of Mary. Martha, we know, was busy with all the details of hospitality, about preparing for the luncheon. Mary wasn’t concerned about that at all but rather parked herself at the feet of Jesus and listened to his every word. When Martha complained about being the one doing all the work and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus replied that “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” In other words, we love God with our whole heart, being, strength and mind by sitting at his feet and listening to his every word with focus, concentration and attention. On this feast of St. Martha, let us spend some time today amidst all the other things we have on the agenda just sitting and listening to the words of Jesus. Let’s join Mary for a while in choosing the better part.
St. Martha, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time (July 30, 2008) Mt. 13:44-46
Today’s Gospel selection presents another of the many parables in Scripture concerning the Kingdom of heaven: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” This parable parallels the Gospel for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time that was read just last Sunday. There I spoke about the memories that produced great happiness in my life and how these events were temporary in themselves even though some of their effects might be lasting. Once again, the point is the same for this parable as for the aforementioned Gospel: All of these happenings that brought happiness in my life are as nothing in comparison to the joy of being part of Jesus’ Kingdom, of acknowledging that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. And nothing else in our lives should interfere with our possession of and acting on this truth. Once again, I am reminded of the words of Scripture that eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the minds of human beings, what God has prepared for those who love him, for those who make the choice to be part of his Kingdom. Jesus, help us to choose you over all the other choices that come our way.
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time (July 31, 2008) St. Ignatius of Loyola
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. Ignatius was born in Loyola, Spain, into what was to be a family of 13 children, in 1491. When he was old enough he joined the army of Spain and became a soldier fighting against the French. His career as a soldier came to a sudden halt in 1521 when he was struck by a cannon ball. While recovering he read the only book that he could find, which was on the lives of the Saints, and as a result of this he decided to become a soldier in the Catholic Faith.
Soon he began to have visions and suffered much from various fears and scrupulosity. As a result of all this he wrote his now famous “Spiritual Exercises.” He went to school in Paris and received his degree at the age of 43. He began to attract followers and soon started his order called the Society of Jesus. Ignatius died at the age of 65 in Rome in 1556.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.
Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time (August 1, 2008) St. Alphonsus Liguori
St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose Memorial is celebrated today, has quite a resume, including Bishop, Doctor of the Church and Founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. Alphonsus was born near Naples, Italy, in 1696, and died on August 1, 1787, at age 91. He was educated at the University of Naples and received his doctorate at age 16. While visiting a hospital of incurables in 1723, he had a vision and decided to dedicate his life solely to God. He was ordained a priest in 1726 and founded his religious congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1732. He practiced a rigorous lifestyle and suffered much from the pain of rheumatism. Alphonsus died peacefully on August 1 near Naples in 1787. His writings, particularly those on Moral Theology, have survived through the years. In religious art he is sometimes pictured as being bent over with rheumatism.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.
Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time (August 2, 2008) Mt.14:1-12
Today’s Gospel recalls the death of St. John the Baptist. John, we remember, confronted King Herod about marrying his brother Philip’s wife. Herod did not take too kindly to the confrontation and inappropriately decided to kill John in a most grotesque way. Herod knew he was wrong as the Gospel indicates: “The King was distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests who were present, he had John beheaded in prison.” Herod didn’t have the courage to say, “Stop! I know I am wrong! Do not harm John.”
Our old friends denial and rationalization most probably had Herod in their grip. How often that happens to us too. We know we are doing something wrong but stopping and admitting it will cause us humiliation and disgrace. And that takes courage we do not have. This is a frequent occurrence, far more frequent than many of us realize. If we find ourselves in this mess, let’s pray that God gives us the grace to admit we are acting wrongly and do something positive to correct the wrong. Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.